Take two cheeky blonde beauticians, tell them to sell a “ridiculous” face-slapping treatment to trusting customers and you’ve got a great TV show.
At least, that’s what Channel 4 executives thought when they recruited Melissa Hartzel and Sammy Jacobs to take part in Shop Secrets: Tricks of the Trade, whose opening episode was broadcast on Monday.
In the eight-part series, experts from seven industries — from beauty salons to supermarkets — share trade secrets that can induce consumers to buy their products.
In the first show, a hidden camera is installed in the Colchester salon where, dressed in hot pink uniforms, Hartzel and Jacobs await their customers.
They have been instructed to sell the latest fad from the States — face-slapping — which is a genuine if unlikely treatment. “I was surprised they actually went for it,” says 36-year-old Hartzel, who is seen slapping a customer who originally went into the salon for a manicure.
“The producer kept saying ‘harder, harder’. I had to bite the inside of my cheek to stop myself from laughing. I just had to keep a straight face and keep going.”
Hertfordshire-based Hartzel convinced clients to pay £35 for the treatment, bringing to bear more than 15 years’ experience in the beauty industry, plus her skills as a saleswoman and part-time actress.
“I always become friends with the customer and swot up on products so I know what I’m selling,” adds the mother-of-two, who married at Wembley Synagogue.
“I just told them the skin treatment was wonderful for them.”
Hartzel says she “gelled straight away” with Jacobs, 34, a former JFS girl living in Essex.
“We’re both mums and you know what it’s like with Jews — we knew the same people. We got on really well.”
Adds Jacobs, a mother-one: “We were basically going undercover. I did find it hilarious.”
The confident saleswoman, a beauty consultant and aspiring TV presenter, relies on “being really nice — being their friend. No one turns me down. Sales are my thing. I’m great at it.”
On the show, she says: “I think people will definitely buy what I’m selling. I’ll be shocked and fall on the floor if they don’t.”
And she was right. No customer turned down their pitches.
Jacobs and Hartzel, who filmed the show a year ago after respectively applying through an agency and casting website, will also appear in episodes three, six and eight.
“Hold tight, it’s going to be good,” Jacobs promises.